Global Women’s Philanthropy is a research project led by the Washington Women’s Foundation's founder, Colleen Willoughby, and the Marc Lindenberg Center at the University of Washington to promote women as philanthropists.
Pilot Project: Women’s Philanthropy in China
This project engages in research to determine if the innovative model of women’s collective giving developed by the Washington Women’s Foundation can be seeded in China. The basic concept is for Chinese women to join together to pool their charitable financial resources, from which significant and impactful grants can be made to Chinese nonprofit organizations—using local money for local projects. In so doing, Chinese women are introduced to a powerful way to develop their potential as effective community philanthropists. If successful, women’s collective giving could become a model of philanthropy that could be replicated in other areas of China.
Conversations with men and women who live and work in-country, Chinese nationals, and longtime observers of the country suggest that there is enormous philanthropic potential in China. A culture of giving is growing as more individuals gain experience volunteering time and money to support internationally recognized events such as the Beijing Olympics, charitable causes, and major humanitarian relief efforts, including responding to the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake. In addition, women are achieving considerable new and independent wealth, and China’s middle class is increasingly ready to share with the needy. But philanthropy, by most measures, is still relatively nascent in China. The reasons may include legal hurdles, skepticism or distrust of civil society organizations as recipients of giving, or limited knowledge of, and experience with, effective giving.
We believe that this is an opportunity, through sharing some of the Washington Women’s Foundation’s organizational and educational principles, to foster this budding philanthropy into a deliberate, supported, and organized willingness to share and build community. We hope to help Chinese women find and demonstrate their leadership potential by educating them in the art of philanthropy, through which they can identify their own local needs, priorities, and solutions to transform lives.
Washington Women's Foundation
The Washington Women's Foundation is a membership organization of women donors learning together how to become effective and educated philanthropists. This new model of philanthropy has become known as collective giving, through which donor funds are pooled to make large grants for a greater impact than what would individually be possible. Founded over 14 years ago, the Washington Women’s Foundation now has over 500 Seattle-area members and has invested nearly $10 million in the community through pooled and individual grants. Their unique model has inspired at least 16 similar women’s philanthropic groups across the U.S. One reason for the model’s success is the flexibility it provides: the members of each local foundation decide for themselves what donation amounts and member contributions are feasible and appropriate, as well as which charitable causes it will select to support.
Learn more about the Washington Women’s Foundation.
Using the Washington Women’s Foundation’s educational model, we aim to introduce women in China to the art of philanthropy and demonstrate how a culture of targeted, focused, and effective philanthropy could be created. We believe that this model of philanthropy can be a powerful component of international development and global citizenship by engaging women in the power of individual and collective giving. Through informed and strategic grant-making, women in China can expand their knowledge, invest in their communities, and create opportunities to learn and exercise leadership.
Project Managers & Contact Information
Colleen S. Willoughby
Founder, Washington Women’s Foundation
Chairwoman, Evans School of Public Policy and Governance Advisory Board